Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The Wide & Narrow Gate

By Dennis Pollock

Who will go to heaven? How many will go to heaven? If we answered these questions by all the funerals we have attended throughout our lives, we would have to say that everybody will be there. There will hardly be a single soul left out. Heaven will be bursting at the seams with all kinds of people of every sort, and even every religion. But will it really be that way? Not if you believe Jesus. Our Lord put the question of heaven in an entirely different light, declaring:

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13)

This statement is of paramount importance. Jesus tells us that most people who live and die in this world will not go to heaven. Most doctors will not go there, most school teachers, most professional athletes, most plumbers, most carpenters, most men, most women, most businessmen, most news anchors, most farmers, most computer technicians, most Americans, most Africans, most Asians, most Hispanics, most… well, I think you get the idea. Most people are not going to make it to heaven, according to Jesus.

The Two Gates

He uses the illustration of two gates to demonstrate this truth. One gate is wide and people are constantly swarming through it, masses of people lining up in a never-ending throng, constantly, continually walking through this very large, very wide, very broad gateway. In a different place, leading to an entirely different (and vastly superior destination) there is a gate, but it is not very large. In fact it is downright small, tiny, and narrow. The line is small there. Just a handful of people seem to be interested in going through it to discover what is on the other side. This gate seems almost empty in comparison to the larger, broader gate.

This is how Jesus describes the difference between those who will enter heaven when they die, and those who will take that dark route that leads to what He refers to as “outer darkness” and “everlasting destruction.” In short Jesus is telling us that there will be a whole lot more people who end up in hell when their lives are over, than those who enter heaven, regardless of what well-meaning friends may confidently assert at their funerals.

Nor is this the only place in Scripture where Jesus addresses this topic. When a rich young man was unwilling to sell all and follow Him, our Lord told His disciples:

How hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:24-25).

In this case Jesus singles out wealthy people, and suggests that the possibility of them attaining eternal life is exceedingly slim. If it is hard enough for ordinary men, so tough that most will never make it, it must be incredibly difficult for the rich. Most will end up like that rich man Jesus described, who enjoyed his good things in this life, only to discover that a terrible future had been allotted him in the next one.

Why So Few?

Why is this? And what is the reason that so few men and women are allowed to enter heaven? It is not that God doesn’t want lots of children. He assuredly does. Nor does He take any pleasure in seeing sinners entering that dark place of everlasting regret. The Bible says that God “would have all men to be saved,” and that “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all might come to repentance.” But this does not change the fact God allows only one kind of people into heaven: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

He cares nothing about our race, nationality, or culture. He doesn’t prefer educated children over ignorant ones or highly successful types over those who could barely hang onto their lowly jobs. What He does care about, and cares about intensely, is whether we have received His gift of righteousness. Jesus stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” What this means is that people of every religion in this world except for genuine Christianity, are automatically excluded from heaven. It is the wide gate for them.

It matters not whether they are honest or have the best of intentions or have wonderful, friendly personalities or give generously toward charitable causes or have sometimes risked their lives for others. It only matters whether, at some point in their lives, they were born again through faith in Jesus Christ, the crucified and resurrected One. Any atheists, agnostics, or people of any other religion than Christianity will not show up at the narrow gate.

But God is so tough and exacting in His standards of whom He will allow to live with Him, that even many among those professing to be Christians will not make it. Jesus tells us:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Here are people who call Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” They presumably attended church regularly, spoke in His name, and even prayed for miracles in His name. These were not atheists or Muslims; they were, in their minds, followers of Jesus. And yet on that final day when men and women are assigned to their eternal destinies, they will find out, to their horror, that they weren’t true Christians. In Jesus’ words, “I don’t know you.” The implication is that He never knew them. Despite being up to their necks in Christian activities and ministry, they were eternally lost. How could this be? What was their great offense?

We are not told specifics here, but Jesus informs us that these were lawless, or as the old King James version put it, “workers of iniquity.” Somehow their profession of Jesus had not affected their behavior. They talked a good game, but they lied, cheated, indulged in pornography, jumped into bed with people other than their spouses, indulged in homosexuality, watched movies Christians have no business watching, and assumed that since we are all just “sinners saved by grace,” it didn’t really matter. Jesus must not mind – too much! To their everlasting regret they found out too late that He minded a great deal.

Power of Bias

We might wonder why more people don’t come to genuine faith in Jesus. If the heaven/hell crowds are so lopsided, why is this? It can’t be for lack of knowledge, particularly these days. Christian books, Christian television, and Christian churches are everywhere, at least in America. And even in countries which are non-Christian, it is nearly impossible for their citizens to escape Christian influence which so pervades our world. Why don’t more become believers? Our message is a pleasant one: God loves you, God wants to forgive you, and provide for you and be your Heavenly Father. And if you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, at the end of your life, you will go to heaven and live with Him forever. Who could really reject such an invitation? And yet millions and billions do.

There are several reasons for this but one of the major ones centers around the concept of bias. Few of us have any idea just how powerful bias is in our lives, both in spiritual matters and ordinary things. We typically believe things because we want to believe them, and we refuse to believe other things because we do not at all want to believe them. Jesus says:

My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority (John 7:16-17).

I have always found this Scripture fascinating. Jesus tells us if we really want to do the will of God – if we really, really want God’s plan for our lives, we will know the truth about Jesus and will recognize that He speaks the voice and mind of God. We will have no problem with all the so-called “intellectual arguments” against Christianity, all our doubts will be dissolved, all our little fake excuses will dissipate, and we will come running to Jesus, calling upon Him for forgiveness and salvation. And the reverse is also true – if we do not care about the will of God; if we have an instinctive aversion to God being absolute master of our lives, we will flee from Jesus with all haste. We will find and use every excuse, every argument, every controversy or grounds of debate against Christianity in our desperate efforts to disprove the authority of the Scriptures and the Lordship of Jesus.

We Believe What We Want

To put it plainly, if we are obsessed with living a sexually immoral life, the last thing in the world we would want would be for the Bible to be true, and Jesus to be exactly who He said He was. It would condemn us at every turn and be a constant reminder of the folly of our lives and the eventual price we will pay for our immorality. If we make a lot of money by unethical means, it would kill us to admit that the Bible is the Word of God, and Jesus really is the King of kings, and be forced to find other employment. It is so much easier to list several different reasons why we don’t really believe the Bible was inspired, or repeat endlessly that Jesus was a good teacher but nothing more, or that evangelicals have gotten Christianity all wrong, and all Jesus was really saying was that we should all be happy and try to get along with each other. None of this “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” business for them. It would totally spoil things, just when everything was going along so well.

“A man convinced against His will is of the same opinion still.” People who do not want to believe in Jesus will find a thousand different reasons not to believe in Jesus. Or to believe in Him with some anemic, wimpy, casual belief which does not change the heart and leaves them in the same ungodly lifestyle they have come to know and love. In the end we will typically believe what we want to believe, and if you are determined to keep the status quo in your life and remain unchanged, you will not want to believe in Jesus – not at all!

Increasing the Crowds at the Narrow Gate

Amazingly, in spite of this, people do find Christ and are born again. The narrow gate is not so crowded as the wide gate, but neither is it deserted. You will find small groups going through steadily, men and women who were brought out of darkness into the marvelous light of Jesus Christ. And even more amazingly God has included us in this process. He has called us to share the good news of salvation through Jesus, and He has given us His Holy Spirit who is able to take our faltering words and empower them with such convicting, convincing grace that prejudices are overcome, biases melt like ice cubes on the sidewalk on a hot summer day, and hearts are converted from rocky and hard to soft and tender. We cannot throw up our hands and say, “The task is too difficult.” If we came to faith in Jesus, there is no reason why we can’t help a few others do the same.

Perhaps as we are entering that narrow gate at the conclusion of our lives, we may find some of our friends in line just before or after us, who will turn and thank us for opening our mouths, and not keeping our light hidden under a basket. Our crowd at the narrow gate will never outnumber those at the huge gate on the other side, but if we can do our part to increase our little line, it will be worth every effort, every dollar, every prayer, every time we overcome our nervousness and open our mouths about Jesus. Like the apostle Paul, we do it “for the elect’s sake.”

 

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